About 400 science researchers, policy wonks, and journalists packed into a meeting-room to see the surrogates duke it out. In the Clinton corner was Tom Kalil, a ruddy, thick-necked bureaucrat armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a full clip of obscure facts about academe. (Did you know that the average age for receiving your first NIH R01 grant is 41?) Representing Obama was Alec Ross, a smarmy and pandering thirtysomething in shirtsleeves. “I'm one of those guys who’s deeply moved by data,” he said, and then failed to adduce a single obscure fact about academe through the course of the session.
Let me say that I think either candidate would make a fine President, although personally I prefer Obama. I am glad that they at least sent representatives to talk to scientists (the other party's hostility to science is an important reason why I don't support it). But I looked up both Kalil and Ross--and neither of them is a scientist! JFK and LBJ used Jerome Wiesner, who would later become President of MIT, for science policy advice. It occurs to me that there are lots of articulate, policy-minded, honest-to-goodness scientists out there. It would be good to hear from them.